Elemental Notebooks Review

For the second time, I’ve been burned by Kickstarter. The first time was with the Hippo Noto’s long wait time and questionable sturdiness. At least the Elemental Notebooks delivered fast. Also, the chemistry-themed design is spectacular, living up to every picture released. It reminds me of another cloth-covered favorite, Baron Fig notebooks. I bought the Nitrogen and Hydrogen, and a set of Unobtanium pocket notebooks. (I forgot Oxygen had the blue cover, this is why I hated Chemistry lol) But the paper is more important than anything else for me, so the Elemental Notebooks were a massive letdown.

Once again, I’m late to the show. Check out Mountain of Ink’s review here. In the next paragraphs, I review the Nitrogen notebook and the Unobtanium add-ons.

Specs:

  • 100 gsm cream dot grid paper
  • A5 size, or 3.5 by 5.5 inches for Unobtanium
  • $20 per notebook, pocket Unobtaniums were add-ons for $12
  • 192 pages
  • two ribbon bookmarks
  • no table of contents or numbered pages

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Appearance:

I was impressed by the Elemental notebooks as soon as I got them. The packaging is gorgeous! The notebooks come in black slipcases that explain the element the notebook is named after. The cover is made of a slightly rough cloth, with no decorations on the front. It reminds me of an old library book, especially with the indent near the spine. The dark green of Nitrogen is beautiful. The endpapers are well thought out. There’s a space in the shape of the periodic table to put your name in. The bottom of the spine is imprinted with gold foil showing the periodic element. It’s a nice touch. The edges of the book are tinted black with tiny colorful stripes meant to emulate the emissions spectrum of Nitrogen.

The Unobtanium notebooks have the element stamped in green foil on the lower right side. It’s made of a soft pleather material. They are the size of Field Notes, but have stitched bindings like Baron Fig Vanguards.

Paper:

But the paper is where it all goes downhill… I opened up my Nitrogen to see large, dark, dots. I hate when the ruling is too dark. It distracts me from my writing and looks generally unpleasant. But then I used my new Sailor Kingdom Note fountain pen to write the header and was instantly disappointed.

Feathering everywhere! No shading, only a flat color. Something I’ve noticed with bad paper is that “splotches” appear, instead of shading. I experienced that here. There was more show through than I’d like, but it’s not terrible. The paper itself was an off-white color, with some tooth to it, like Baron Fig. This paper is really bad. It’s usable with gel pens, ballpoints and pencils, but the dots are still too dark for me. So I don’t know what to use these for? The Unobtanium has the same paper. At least I use those for taking quick notes and the dot grid doesn’t matter as much.

Honestly, I feel misled. The creators of Elemental notebooks specifically said the paper was good for fountain pens. They even posed the Oxygen with a blue TWSBI Eco-T in a promotional picture! They also said the dark dots were part of the prototype and would be lighter in the final production. I wouldn’t have spent $47 on these notebooks if I knew they weren’t fountain pen friendly.

Comparison to Baron Fig:

The Elemental Notebook just begs comparison with the Baron Fig! I’m a huge fan of the BF Confidant, so this newcomer had a lot to live up to. I’d say BF won, for pure stylishness and usable paper. My Nitrogen is a typical A5 size, while the Confidant is more compact. The ribbons on Nitrogen are longer, and there’s two of them. See how they lay flat and are easy to pull on? That’s what BF needs. The stubby bookmark isn’t enough for me.

The Nitrogen is more like a library book, complete with the crease near the spine and rough linen cover. The Confidant is like a luxury product, with softer covers and a modern style.

The Confidant wins the paper battle, by far. First of all, its dot grid is large but a soft gray. The Nitrogen has the problem of both dark and large dots, which makes writing very distracting.

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Comparing the dot grid on the Confidant, on top, with the bottom Elemental notebook

The Confidant doesn’t have the luxurious Tomoe River feeling, but I actually like the slight tooth while using my fountain pens. Nib sizes tend to spread a bit, but don’t feather. The colors are vibrant and accurate. Honestly, I’ve only used the limited edition Confidants, and other reviews have made me question the paper quality. I want to do my own test on the regular Confidant. But the Nitrogen feathers and spreads everywhere. Instead of shading, I get weird splotchiness.

Overall, if you want a cloth-cover A5 notebook with dot grid, get the Baron Fig. It’s cheaper at $18 and has better paper.

Conclusion:

I think I’ve learned my lesson about not funding kickstarters. Both times, I’ve been disappointed. The nature of a kickstarter is itself fickle. It’s easy to run out of money, find problems in production, or deliver months late. I don’t blame the creators for running into problems, but I’m done accepting them. From now on, I’m ordering notebooks that are in regular production.

I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

Stationery Shopping: Itoya, Tag, Loft

Note: Read my other posts about stationery shops here and here.

So I went to Itoya Ginza and its related shop, K. Itoya, during my last day in Tokyo. Itoya is in the center of the Ginza shopping district, surrounded by luxury stores. Just look for the giant red paper clip jutting out from the building!

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Itoya presented the stationery beautifully. It must have taken a long time to arrange all the stationery so perfectly. There were endless rows of letter paper, washi tape and pens. There were 12 floors, so a lot to choose from! Not all the floors catered to stationery lovers. I spotted travel and home good sections. There’s also a nice restaurant!

But most of it didn’t really speak to me. The items was either too expensive or not my style. The service was also quite slow. Compared to Sekeido, Itoya was too upscale and curated for me. The notebook selection was lackluster in the main store. There wasn’t enough variety and everything was full price. I liked the K. Itoya better. It was less sterile, and had a good notebook section. There were also cute school supplies. My favorite part was the table devoted to astronomy-themed stationery!

I did buy a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 in Yama Budo color, a pen I’ve coveted since the beginning of my pen obsession. And I grabbed Pilot Iroshizuko Momiji for 1500 yen!

I had a much better time when I went to Kyoto. There I visited Loft and Tag Stationery. They were two very different stores. Loft was a Target-style store, with many different floors devoted to fashion, travel, home goods, gifts, etc. Tag Stationery was a smaller, specialized shop.

Loft was in a busy part of Kyoto, near my hotel. It had several floors, but it wasn’t all devoted to stationery. The third floor had all the journals, pens, art supplies and planners. There was a rainbow of notebooks in even more colors and types then I’d seen before! This had the best notebook section out of all the stores I visited so far. The Copic marker aisle was small and not as good as Tools. The fountain pen and ink counter was also small. But there were Loft exclusive Pilot Kakunos with magenta, pink or purple pen bodies. I got the purple pen. 🙂 There was even  a cute Traveler’s Notebook set up. I even convinced my mom and sister to visit Loft. They both enjoyed it! My sister even bought a Traveler’s Notebook in passport size and some inserts to go with it. So proud of her. 😀

In comparison, Tag Stationery was a small niche store. Apparently that’s where the Tag inks came from. It was in a bustling shopping area. A small temple was next to it. I loved that about Kyoto, finding little shrines and temples everywhere!

I already had Kyo-no-oto Adzuki-iro but I bought Kyo-iro No. 2 Ohara’s Morning Snow and Kyo-no-oto Hisoku. Besides, the store-made inks, I also purchased a pinkish red Sailor demonstrator. There was an exclusive pink Pilot Prera but I didn’t get it. Tag also had a wonderful collection of letter writing paper and envelopes. I bought a nice set with flower patterns printed into the surface. I was surprised by the array of notebooks for young children. It seemed like the type of notebooks you’d buy for kindergarten. It had an unusual ruling, a large grid made up of four squares. They had pop culture references on the cover like Disney and Peanuts and Moomin. I always like finding new rulings!

Although, I didn’t enjoy Itoya as much, the other two stores more than made up for it! Next, I’ll post about the Traveler’s Factory store in Narita airport and other assorted places where I got my stationery.

Stationery Shopping: Kingdom Note

My first stop of the day was at Kingdom Note! I’ve heard so much about this place. It’s a store that stocks pens, inks and notebooks. It has an exclusive line of inks that are inspired by animals and plants. Kingdom Note also collaborates with the Sailor company to make veggie themed pens! These store-exclusive products are not available in the U.S. I’ve seen them on Ebay for exorbitant amounts of money but I’d rather not pay those prices.

The store is on the 6th floor of a building in Shinjuku and is hard to see from the street. You will see a sign for KN and a camera shop. Luckily, its 5 minutes from my hotel!

The store was smaller than I thought it would be. Only a few people work there. The attendant helping me was really nice and he knew enough English for us to communicate. The store was filled with a wide variety of fountain pens, many of them European. The small selection of Nakayas dazzled me. There was a rack of notebooks, but nothing very special. My eyes were immediately drawn to the vegetable themed pens and the giant wall of ink. I bought a “green pepper” fountain pen in a broad nib but there was also a pumpkin themed one. You could buy matching 20ml inks for it. I certainly did! There were also demonstrators in bright colors but I already spent all my money for the day. 😛

I also tested a variety of inks. There’s a whole wall of them, both European and Japanese! I was given a binder full of ink sample cards then I chose which one to try. The attendant let me test them with a glass pen. I bought three inks, two of them in 50 ml bottles and the other in a tiny 20ml one. I bought the Mycena pura, a dusty pink color based on mushrooms. I first heard about it from a post on Reddit, but I thought I would never buy it! I also got Thysanostoma thysanura, a pinkish purple like a jellyfish. And I bought the matching green pepper ink to go with my pen. When I get back from Japan, I hope to have ink reviews up for them.

Make sure to get the tax refund taken care of! Foreigners have to pay an 8% tax rate for some purchases, but you can get it refunded in kiosks and at the airport. I got a slip of paper with my purchase that I can turn in later.

The people working there were really kind and I felt welcomed inside the store. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go to a small boutique style store.

Tomorrow I’m going to Mt. Fuji on a tour but hopefully I’ll get to Itoya Ginza and Maruzen Nihombashi soon. I also added the Tools art supply store and Smiths to my list. It’s in the Lumine Est department store underneath the Shinjuku train station. I’m going to get Copic markers there. I will post more about the pen stores I visit!

Write Notepads “The Lawn” Review

I live in a suburbia of rolling green lawns, as far as the eye can see. Even in the summer, the grass is trimmed to perfection. Well-kept lawns are always in my summertime memories. I remember getting green stains on my knees, running through sprinklers and tall grass, swimming and roasting smores on a campfire. Maybe that’s why Write Notepads’ “The Lawn” edition touched me so much. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling.

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Specs:

  • 3.75” x 5.5” inches
  • 48 pages
  • 70# paper with 6.35 mm lines
  • three gold staples
  • 3 pack for $12.99

I reviewed the “Sakura” pocket notebook edition in a previous review. I enjoy this edition even more! However, I’m a bit late to the show. Johnny from Pencil Revolution also reviewed it here. Once again, Write Notepads came up with a simple yet creative theme. The notebook is slightly wider than the usual Field Notes 3.5 x 5.5 size. It gives me more space to write and it’s not like I actually put my pocket notebook in my pocket. 😛 The notebook is a deep green, more olive than emerald. Tiny blades of grass are letterpressed on the cover. They seem slightly raised, giving it a texture when I run a hand over it. The Lawn is staple bound, with three sturdy golden staples. My three-pack was held together with a checkered red and white belly band, like a picnic blanket! My pack also came with a sheet of STICKERS!!! I love the whimsical art of garden gnomes, lawn chairs and flamingoes. They blend into the grassy cover perfectly. I hid the beer cans sticker on the back. 😉 I forgot to take a pic before I used them, sorry about that!

Inside is a luscious white paper perfect for fountain pens. It has 6.35 mm green lines that fit my writing perfectly. Write Notepads must have changed their paper formula because this and the Sakura is much better than the old stock. The paper is smooth but not slippery like Field Notes. It has enough tooth for pencil and feels great with my felt and gel pens. It handles literally every fountain pen I throw at it, even my juicy Pelikan and Faber-Castell nibs. There is only some feathering with my F-C nib. There is no bleed through and barely any show through. The only other paper I’ve found like this was Baron Fig and Rhodia/Clairefontaine. My nib doesn’t catch on the paper fibers nor does it feel scratchy.

For research, I bought a pack of “Samuel Morse” notebooks, a previous Write Notepads limited edition. Though they share the same attention to detail, the “Morse” notebooks are perfect bound, meaning the spine is glued. This makes it much harder for pages to lay flat. The paper is also not good for fountain pens. It feathers and bleeds to the other side. Ink colors look flat and lifeless. In comparison, “The Lawn” has crisp lines and shows shading, though not sheen.

In the past, I didn’t buy Write Notepads limited editions because of the perfect binding and paper. But staple-bound, fountain pen friendly notebooks are always welcome in my horde. I hope Write Notepads makes more editions like “The Lawn” and “Sakura”. Hopefully they have a table at the D.C. Pen Show so I can come and visit!

I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review. 

Hippo Noto Review

Specs:

  • 68 gsm ivory Tomoe River paper
  • pocket A5 size, 5.2 x 8.2
  • $40, $33 when I got it
  • 500 pages
  • two ribbon bookmarks
  • back pocket
  • no table of contents or numbered pages

Intro:

My Hippo Noto arrived a few weeks ago, but I finally have the time to review it! The Hippo Noto notebook was part of a kickstarter from last year, created by a fellow blogger, Krystle from Squishy Ink. I just want to say, I appreciate all of Krystle’s effort! First kickstarters rarely go smoothly, but she kept the backers updated when there were problems with the ivory paper and when the notebooks were stuck in customs. So good job on your kickstarter and I can’t wait to see what you will make next!

Hippo Noto promised 500 luscious pages of 68gsm Tomoe River paper. For those of you who don’t know, Tomoe River is the best paper I’ve found for fountain pen inks. It shows off tons of shading, sheen and shimmer better than other favorites of mine like Baron Fig and Clairefontaine. There are two types of this paper, 52gsm and 68gsm (means how thick the paper is). It comes in two colors, cream and ivory. The more common version, 52 gsm is as thin and delicate as tissue paper. Some people don’t like it because the ink shows through severely on the back, though it doesn’t bleed. It’s also easily crinkled. 68gsm is slightly thicker with reduced showthrough, while still being amazing for fountain pens.

So I was sold on this notebook and ordered one in December, with an early 2018 delivery date. I finally received it on April 28, almost five months later. According to the kickstarter, some people still haven’t received theirs yet. The cream paper version was delivered much earlier because there was a defect with the ivory paper. However, this is often what happens in kickstarters.

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Appearance:

I was thrilled by the appearance of the notebook. It came packaged in a cute box with a hippo logo. The fake leathery cover is soft and in my favorite color, teal! It leans more green than blue. There are two long ribbon bookmarks to keep your place. Much better than the stubby ones in Baron Fig Confidants!

 

 

But there was a large brown stain on the elastic band that held the notebook closed. It’s a small thing but it’s gross and I see it each time I open the notebook. 😦 The edges of the leather cover weren’t completely neat, giving it an uneven appearance. I know that notebooks can’t be perfect, but it was disappointing after I waited so long. Hippo Noto, with a little hippo, is printed in silver on the cover. Very cute!

 

 

The leather cover also serves as the spine, glued to the massive slab of paper. A gap has emerged between the leather and paper, making me wonder if it will fall apart. This is more worrying than any of the small defects. The glue may not be strong enough to attach the leather and paper together.

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So far, my notebook has held up. On the kickstarter page, two people have complained of pages becoming unglued or the spine not being stable. I’m not sure if this is a widespread issue or just me. I feel like the first few sections in my notebook are coming loose. I think it’s such a large slab of paper that it’s becoming unglued from the spine. Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 11.33.08 PM

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Looking inside, you see bright blue endpaper. There’s a giant pocket in the back and info about Hippo Noto on the bottom left corner. I like how subtle the branding is on the notebook. There is no table of contents or numbered pages. It’s okay because I can make my own. The first and last pages were attached to the endsheets and were too difficult to use. It lays relatively flat, mostly in the center. The first few and last pages have a large “hump”, so you may have to adjust your writing position. My notebook also came with blotting paper for preventing ink smudges, an adhesive pen loop and a writing mat to put under your current page.

 

 

Paper:

This paper is amazing! It’s even better than the 52 gsm Nanami Seven Seas notebook I’ve tried. It’s much less translucent and delicate. It’s a bright white color, but not as blinding as Clairefontaine. The paper is silky smooth and I could spend minutes stroking it. (yes I’m weird) I love the smell of Tomoe River. It’s hard to describe but isn’t distracting. Pencil and gel ink works fine on the paper, but felt tips like the Papermate Flair looked washed out. Fountain pen ink is vibrant and pops on the page. My pen test didn’t use super sheening inks but it was still visible. Lamy Dark Lilac (sold out, sorry) is amazing on this paper. I can see golden sheen with my bare eye. There is a pretty halo of pink sheen in Sailor Sky High.

 

 

I prefer the 68 gsm much more than the 52 gsm because of the reduced showthrough. With the thinner 52 gsm, I could see every word on the back side. Writing on the back made it less distracting but the visual “noise” of the showthrough still bothered me. 68 gsm still has some ghosting on the back, but it’s not nearly as annoying. Only the extra fine Sharpie bled through, but it does that on every paper. I know, in the picture it seems like a lot of ghosting. But it’s much better than 52 gsm. I chose lined paper, not dot grid like many others did. I ordered it before I fell in love with dot grid! The lines are 6mm apart and made of faint gray dashes. They don’t distract from my writing at all. There’s a giant margin at the top. I like having that space to write a title and date, but that space could be cut down to add a few more lines. Looking at the Well Appointed Desk review, the dot grid has a margin but it’s not nearly as large as mine.

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Dry times are long depending on the ink. My pen test used Kobe #44 Marchais Blue, which dries relatively fast. After ten seconds it was dry. As a leftie, it was hard to stop my hand from smearing the fresh ink! I was careful here, but in my Nanami notebooks there are smudges. I recommend using Tomoe River paper for journaling, writing stories and poems and other longform writing. It doesn’t dry fast enough to take school or work notes with it. Plus, why would you sully its beautiful pages like that? This notebook demands time to pause while the ink dries, thinking about what to write next.

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Conclusion:

Overall, the Hippo Noto has great paper and is made of nice materials. However, I’m a bit disappointed by the long waiting time, spine problems and stain on the elastic band. The Hippo Noto needs to be revised a bit. Hopefully the next batch irons out these kinks and makes a good notebook even better. Because it’s not in a regular production, only lined and blank ivory notebooks are left on the site. Hopefully more are made soon. It’s also expensive. $40 with $10 shipping, though I got it as a Late Pledge for $33. If you want something similar to hold you over, you can get a Taroko Enigma  with 68 gsm for $30 and $10 shipping. The Enigma also has better quality control and doesn’t take too long to arrive. However, you’ll be missing out on the pocket, elastic band, cute colors and lined options that come with the Hippo Noto.

I had high expectations for the Hippo Noto after waiting for months, more than I would than if it came in a week.  If you want a notebook with fabulous paper, cute colors and short form factor, then you should buy the Hippo Noto. As for me, it will still be my next story notebook, but I won’t buy another until quality control is better.

I bought this notebook with my own funds. I was not paid for this review.